AWO: IN AND OUTSIDE THE PUBLIC GLARE by Professor Moses Akinola Makinde
Awolowo’s history is mainly centred around his political life, and it is a very difficult task to write about his non-political life without making reference to his political life. Notwithstanding, there are interesting aspects of Awo’s life that are not exclusively politics inclined. For example, Awo was a romantic letter writer whose main target was his wife even prior to their marriage. He wrote to influence her mind by stirring affection. He was an astute business man too. Beyond casual religious inclinations, he was a great mystic. All these and more will be treated in the course of this section.
AWO:THE ROMANTIC LETTERS MAN
Awolowo engaged the medium of letter writing in the quest to win his wife, Hannah Dideolu who shall be referred to as HID in this section. According to his wife’s testimony, Awo courted her in writing long before meeting her face to face. A situation that sounds more like the contemporary internet correspondence or on-line dating. At that time of romantic letters writing to HID in 1934, Awo was the secretary to the transporters and Produce Buyers Union at Abeokuta while HID was at Ikenne. His letters, according to his wife’s testimonies, were explicit in stating his intention to take HID as his wife. After all the wooing through scripted sermons of love, his letters ended with ‘I WANT TO MARRY YOU’. She replied each letter with a resounding NO,NO to the mystery lover. On the day Awo eventually met her face to face, he did not disclose that he was the man behind the love letters. He just declared interest an intention to marry HID as an opening statement and initial direct physical communication. This occurred at a strategically set up introductory meeting by a close friend and relation. In shock, and ruthlessly too, HID furiously rejected Awo’s propositions with resounding NO, NO, NO and NO!!!.
According to a Mama HID, she told the relation and friend that she did not even know Awo from Adam, and wondered about such a shocking approach. She also recalled that Awo left without a word, and it was his alarina friend who promised they would come back and see her again. Another meeting was set up at one of HID’s friends house. At this meeting, Awo eventually disclosed that he was the one who had been writing the letters. She openly gave him further resounding NO, NO, NO and NO!!! Awo retreated, but never surrendered. On returning to his base in Abeokuta, he resumed his love letter writing with the same mission statement of marriage. This time, he increased his tempo and intensity of love scriptures from Abeokuta to Ikenne. According to HID, ‘Awo did not take my NO for an answer, and he continued to write his letters’.
After a while, HID began to soften up and open to Awo’s scriptural advances. Her mother was sensitive to her daughter being swept away by the loving breeze of Awo’s pen, and was strongly against all prospects of her daughter’s involvement with Awo as a result of Awo’s rascally reputation at that time. Somewhere along the line, a relationship started and according to her, out of the know of her mother. In HID’s exact words, ‘the relationship started and continued UNDERGROUND’.[i]
If Awo began to convey his affection towards his wife in writing, it is conjecturable that he must have used the medium of writing to tactically present his views on man-woman affections and relations in latter writing too. In the course of an interview with his wife while documenting the Memoirs of a Jewel, mama HID was quick and excited to refer to a declaratory writing of Awo which borders on his views on marital affairs. In one of his private writings shared by his wife from her memory, she stated that Awo ‘wrote’:
Men must understand and love their wives. They must not be too harsh with their wives because some men are too harsh with their wives and treat them roughly. This is wrong. They should be treated gently. Remember that they are not men like ourselves. They are the opposite sex to be treated with kindness and utmost respect. Men should be gentle with their wives. It is madness for men to beat their wives. How can you beat a woman who gave birth to your children and takes care of your house? Do you think the children will appreciate it? No. It is even dangerous, for it can wreck a family, apart from giving it a bad image.[ii]
This is, perhaps, a strategic writing targeted at creating an impression in the mind of HID for the purpose of reassuring her and keeping her happy and grateful as his wife. The task before him at the onset of love letter writings to HID in the 1930’s had already been accomplished. He wanted to marry HID and it came to pass. Circumstantial evolutions in marriage naturally require change in approaches to almost all issues in relationship, habits and character. Perhaps, letters and brief declarations of reflections on relationship matters like that which was earlier stated as targeting emotional impressions also evolved in the course of Awo’s romantic life with his wife. It was also in a declaratory writing on his experience with HID since December 26, 1937 when he married her that he stated that she has been to him ‘a Jewel of Inesteemable value’. Definitely, Awo was a lyrical romantic!
AWO: THE SUCCESSSFUL BUSINESS TYCOON
Awolowo was a very successful business man. Investment was the key focus of his business which revolved round four principal companies;[iii]
- Dideolu estate Limited
- Industrial Promotions and consultancy ltd.
- Shopolu Investment and services
- Liberty Press
AWO: ON RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE
Awolowo was a very tolerant man who held a loving non-discriminatory attitude towards religious opponents. This was achievable, apparently through the social construct of his background. It is noted that ‘among the major influences of young Obafemi’s home environment was the religious tolerance demonstrated by members of his family’. His parents were Christian converts, and his baptismal name given after three months was Jeremiah. Hence, he was exposed to Christian teachings. In his large family set up, his grandmother was a strong Ifa adherent (Onifa). On records, it was through her that Awo came under the influence of Ifa tradition from very early in his life. He observed and learned great virtues from his grandmother, and was particularly inspired by his grandmother’s abhorrence of evil.[iv]
AWO: INSPIRATION, AND CATALYST OF MYSTICAL GROWTH
It is believed that Awo’s exposure to mysteries from a variety of cultural spaces induced his inclination to mysticism. As at the time of his transition, he was noted to be a prime African Mystic Philosopher. His foundational inspiration derived from readings in philosophy and other related disciplines. According to Fajemilua, Awo was acquainted with works of philosophical writers who were mystics. On the list of these are Francis Bacon, Charles Dickens, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Albert Hubbard, Sir Walter Scott, Thomas Paine, Budhh, Amnhotep IV (Egyptian king), Mahatma Ghandi and Pandt Jawaharal Nehru. What is more, on his inspirational reading list were the following books:[v]
The Human Machine, by Arnold Bennet (originally published in 1900)
Its’s Up to You, by Ernest Holmes (originally published in 1936)
Evolution of the Species, by Thomas Henry Huxely
Collection of Essays, by Robert Green Ingersoll (an American Attorney, civil war veteran, political leader and strong defender of Agnosticism.
As time passed, Awo’s mind evolved into a very powerful one. He eventually found a blissful nest in the Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crusis (AMORC) well known as the Rosicrucian Order where he remained till the time of his transition. As a mystic philosopher who drew much energy from the Rosicrucian influence, it is noted that
Awo demonstrated openly and perhaps, deliberately the means by which man could employ such transcendental meditation for the purpose of drawing inspirations or intellectual illumination directly from the Cosmic Mind or the Infinite Source of Wisdom and creative power not only for the purpose of improving individual daily living but for solving national problems...[vi] As a mystic, his mind was constantly attuned to connective quests with the Cosmic Mind and Infinite Source of Wisdom and Power for intellectual and spiritual illumination.[vii]
Awo believed in formal and informal methods of acquiring a sound education—a conception centred on his belief in the Universal Cosmic Intelligence as ‘the ultimate teacher or source of knowledge’ as well as his assertion that ‘man is capable of self attunement with this great teacher or educator for the purpose of acquiring new knowledge and enlightenment. This, he is noted to believe, provides a new depth of inspiration for scholars who are sincerely interested in mental and psychic development. Being ordinarily religious was insufficient for Awo. Mysticism was, for him the way to progress from the juncture where religion limitedly sustains attention to uncertainties of religious myths.
AWO’S RELIGIOUS LIFE
Awo was devoted to the Christian faith. He followed a regular routine of exercising morning and evening devotions.[viii] He had a chapel in his home where he worshipped. In the course of his religious consciousness, it is noted that Awo drew tremendous inspiration from the lives lived by three principal religious founders and prophets: Sidharta Gautama, known as Buddha, Jesus Christ and Prophet Mohammed.[ix] Summarily, Awo was a lover of principles and ideals.
Awo relaxes mainly by observing daily siesta. When he was not observing his siesta, his time of relaxation was primarily spent with his wife and family. He also enjoyed extending this communion to families of allies. He however disliked having his siesta interrupted. A sizable period of his relaxation space was spent in the company of intellectuals from diverse fields of the academia. The relaxation space was also expended on writing and reading. Part of the time was also used to exercise mystical meditation and attunement. One of Awo’s close aides, Mike Omoleye, who is a foremost Nigerian mystic and metaphysician, revealed in his book that in three of Awo’s house in Ikenne, Ibadan and Lagos, Awo had a sanctum, of which one of them, according to Omoleye’s eye witness report, was decorated like the Rosicrucian headquarters temple in San Jose, California.[x] The headquarters was a North American location for grand relaxation which was, according to a statement credited to Awo, he occasionally used to ‘exercise spiritual stock-taking’.
AWO’S BEST FRIENDS
Notable amongst Awo’s close friends are Simeon Adebo, Alfred Rewane, Adesoji Aderemi (a former Ooni of Ife), Okunade sijuwade (who also later became an Ooni of Ife) and Hubert Ogunde. It is interesting to note that the late Adesoji Aderemi was a prominent member of the Board of Trustees of the Nigerian Tribune while Okunade Sijuade also worked in Tribune after it was founded in 1945.
AWO’S DRINK: This cannot be precisely affirmed, but from experience, Awo relished Limca.
Awo’s hobbies were reading and writing. This reflected in his character. Reading made him a kind of leader that could pay attention to detail directly. According to his wife’s testimony,
Even as Premier of the Western region, on returning home and after after observing his siesta and eating supper, he will scrutinize all files and make detailed comments on them. In that matter he was very painstaking and thorough. Inspite of all this, papa will not give up his period of study late into the night. [xi]
Reading, for Awo, was a mental sport which was utilized as a source of empowerment towards fulfilling his vision of human and national development. In the course of self development, irrespective of challenges faced as a result of pressures from duties as a teacher, shorthand typist, newspaper reporter, business man and trade unionist, Awo is reported to have studied in his spare time. As a result, he gained a bachelor’s degree (by correspondence) in commerce in 1944.[xii] This apparently was the template upon which he his business and economic intelligence was built. His adventures into philosophy and the abstract literatures was the template upon which he built his social and political intelligence.
In a signed declaration of his that still adorns the walls of Efunyela Hall of his Ikenne home, he wrote
I have never regarded myself as having a monopoly of wisdom. The trouble is that when most people in public life and in position of leadership are spending whole days and nights carousing in night clubs or in company of men of shady characters and women of easy virtue, I like a few others, am always at my post working hard at the country’s problems and trying to find solutions to them.
Only the deep can call to the deep.
....Signed, Obafemi Awolowo
On this note, this section is closed.
[i] Awolowo, HID, A Memoir of the Jewel, Makinde, M.A. edited, with
Introduction by Makinde M.A, Ile-Ife: Obafemi Awolowo University Press,
2003, pp 10-12.
[ii] Op cit, p. 53
[iii] See Makers of Modern Africa: Profiles in History, London, African Books Ltd., 1996, p. 61
[iv] Fajemilua, B., Mystical Attributes and Philosophy of Obafemi Awolowo, Akure, Flocel
Publishers, 1998, pp.33-36.
[v] Op cit, p. 35
[vi] Op cit, pp. 115-117
[vii] Op cit, pp. 53, 57 & 65
[viii] Awolowo, HID, Op cit, p. 57
[ix] Fajemilua, B., Op cit, p. 52
[x] Omoleye, Mike, Awo as I Know Him, Ibadan, Omoleye Publishing Company, 1982, p.28
[xi] Awolowo, HID, Ibid
[xii] Makers of Modern Africa: Profiles in History, p. 60
Moses Akinola Makinde, FNAL , FIAMN, JP
Professor of Philosophy and DG/CEO,
Awolowo Centre for Philosophy, Ideology and Good Governance, Osogbo, the State of Osun, South West Nigeria
Olumide O. Okunmakinde